Earlier this week I decided to make a mix for a coworker. Y’see, he really liked Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push” but he wasn’t really willing to commit to purchasing Food & Liquor. And since I’m on a mission to drive up Lupe’s sales I took it upon myself put together a mix showcasing his talent.
Because I’m trying to sell him on buying the album I didn’t include any album tracks. I stuck strictly to his mixtape stuff and cuts from the leaked version of Food & Liquor.
And while searching for mixtape material I realized that hip hop is one of the more layered forms of music. What I mean is that someone who listens to A Rhyming Ape is probably going to be more impressed if they’ve actually heard the Gorillaz Demon Dayz than if they haven’t. But even if they haven’t they’ll still likely appreciate it on some level.
I realized this because some of the songs that I enjoyed the most (“Dear Fall” and “Ignorant Sh#t”) was actually just Lupe rhyming over a beat that Jay-Z had spilled on. So I’m not only hearing Lupe’s rhymes, but comparing them to Jay’s. Whereas my friend is just going to hear some Lupe rhyming on a beat.
But that’s one of the bonuses that hip hop has over other genres. It’s the small things that you only notice if you’re paying attention or if you’ve got the knowledge. Like how “Ya Playin’ Yaself” just flips the beat from “Playa’s Anthem.” Like the back and forth tossing of darts between Nas and Memphis Bleek that, if you weren’t paying attention you would have missed. It’s the way that almost anyone sounds dope over the “Who Shot Ya?” beat.
Sure other musical genres may have “live” and “acoustic” versions as well as song covers, but it’s usually still the same old song. However hearing Styles P rhyme over a beat that both Mos Def and Jay-Z rhymed over is a stimulating, almost intellectual endeavor.
And that’s what makes hip hop great; it’s the layer of context that gives something as simple as a freestyle its weight.